Archive for the ‘constitution’ Tag

Jefferson’s Lament   3 comments

Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Major John Cartwright in 1824, when both were elderly men. The purpose of the letter was to praise Major Cartwright’s book on the history of Anglo-Saxon rights, but Jefferson also attempted to explain the American experiment to Cartwright. Although I might enjoy reading Cartwright’s book as much as Mr. Jefferson did, as an American, I am much more interested in what Jefferson had to say about the country he lived in.

After remarking on what he found interesting and hopeful in Anglo-Saxon history, Jefferson turned to America.

Our Revolution commenced on more favorable ground. It presented us an album on which we were free to write what we pleased. We had no occasion to search into musty records, to hunt up royal parchments, or to investigate the laws and institutions of a semi-barbarous ancestry. We appealed to those of nature, and found them engraved on our hearts.

The American Revolution was based on Lockean notions of natural law, which Jefferson insisted issued from human nature. The Anglo-Saxons had an ancient history of exercising those rights, lost in the Norman invasion, but reconstituted when kings were put in their place as limited monarchs once more. For them to move toward liberty had required an exploration of and a negotiation with their past. The Americans had mostly a blank slate on which to draw.

Yet we did not avail ourselves of all the advantages of our position. We had never been permitted to exercise self-government. When forced to assume it, we were novices in its science. Its principles and forms had entered little into our former education. We established however some, although not all its important principles.

“We were,” Jefferson seems to say, “Like kids in a candystore, complete novices at this self-government notion.” Americans didn’t really know what they were doing, so they established some of the guiding principles of self-government, but they also missed some. It’s important to remember that Jefferson was in France at the time of the Constitutional Convention. John Adams was in Holland. Ben Franklin was old. The old guard of the Revolution was not well represented in Philadelphia that hot summer of 1787. Had they been there, the Constitution might have been a better document. At least, Jefferson thought so.

The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed; that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of the press.

Jefferson found little fault with the state constitutions. For the most part, they stated:

  • All power is inherent in the people and is theirs to exercise in direct democracy and/or by selecting representatives
  • They have a right to be armed at all times
  • They have freedom of person
  • They have freedom of religion
  • They have freedom of property
  • They have freedom of the press

I wonder what Jefferson would think of our current state of affairs, where we have the largest prison population in the world, major presidential candidates who want to disarm the entire country, survelliance programs that potentially are tracking each and every one of us on a daily basis, government telling people they must violate their faith to obey the government, eminent domain, and press corps that lick the boots of the White House.

In the structure of our legislatures, we think experience has proved the benefit of subjecting questions to two separate bodies of deliberants; but in constituting these, natural right has been mistaken, some making one of these bodies, and some both, the representatives of property instead of persons; whereas the double deliberation might be as well obtained without any violation of true principle, either by requiring a greater age in one of the bodies, or by electing a proper number of representatives of persons, dividing them by lots into two chambers, and renewing the division at frequent intervals, in order to break up all cabals.

Jefferson here praises the separation of powers and encourages the frequent flushing of the legislature. What would he think of us today?

Virginia, of which I am myself a native and resident, was not only the first of the States, but, I believe I may say, the first of the nations of the earth, which assembled its wise men peaceably together to form a fundamental constitution, to commit it to writing, and place it among their archives, where every one should be free to appeal to its text. But this act was very imperfect. The other States, as they proceeded successively to the same work, made successive improvements; and several of them, still further corrected by experience, have, by conventions, still further amended their first forms. My own State has gone on so far with its premiere ebauche; but it is now proposing to call a convention for amendment.

All right, first, I have to thank Jefferson for teaching me a new word “ebauche” which is the preliminary sketch of a canvas prior to painting. I didn’t know it had a specific term.

Jefferson was very proud of Virginia and its exercise in self-government. Virginia may, he said, have been the first nation (note that he calls it a NATION, not a state) to write a constitution and put it on permanent record for everyone to appeal to. Yet, he admitted, it was an imperfect document and wanted amendment. Other States had discovered improvements, areas of liberty that required acknowledgment. It was time for Virginia to amend its constitution as well.

Among other improvements, I hope they will adopt the subdivision of our counties into wards. The former may be estimated at an average of twenty-four miles square; the latter should be about six miles square each, and would answer to the hundreds of your Saxon Alfred. In each of these might be, 1. An elementary school. 2. A company of militia, with its officers. 3. A justice of the peace and constable. 4. Each ward should take care of their own poor. 5. Their own roads. 6. Their own police. 7. Elect within themselves one or more jurors to attend the courts of justice. And 8. Give in at their Folk-house, their votes for all functionaries reserved to their election. Each ward would thus be a small republic within itself, and every man in the State would thus become an acting member of the common government, transacting in person a great portion of its rights and duties, subordinate indeed, yet important, and entirely within his competence. The wit of man cannot devise a more solid basis for a free, durable and well administered republic.

Jefferson then laid-out what he hoped a republic might look like. He wanted small wards to divide larger counties. Each of those wards should:

  1. educate its children
  2. provide for its defense
  3. assure peace within its borders
  4. take care of its own poor
  5. build its own roads
  6. hire its own police
  7. elect jurors
  8. vote for representatives

Jefferson envisioned each ward being a republic unto itself, where every man would have a voice, exercising their rights and duties. He saw this as the foundation of republican self-government.

I have to say that if our communities were organized in this way now, we might have less frustration with our government. In the borough that I live in, we have a geographic divide between conservatives — mostly working-class (although some are college-educated) and former military who live on the east end of the borough (sort of like a county) and liberals – mostly university professors and government employees who live on the west side of the borough. These two broad groups are in a tug-of-war with one another, each trying to coerce the other into doing things their way. Would it not be better if we had smaller units where folks with similar ideas could work together to achieve their goals and pretty much ignore adjacent neighborhoods that have divergent goals?

Jefferson himself admitted that this letter was long and rambling (he was 84 years old, after all), so I’m going to make this a two part series.

Jefferson on the Federal Government

Barry’s Illegal Immigration Scheme Is Illegal   Leave a comment

Andrew Napolitano, if you are unfamiliar, is an actual constitutional legal scholar, unlike President Obama who, as an adjunct instructor (because he lacked the qualifications to be hired as a professor), taught a college course on the legal failures of the US Constitution as opposed to the constitutions of various other countries, with specific regard to racial equality. In other words, he is not a constitutional scholar; he just has an opinion on the constitution and someone gave him a soap box to stand on.

This is very different from Napolitano, who was a lawyer and a judge and who ruled on several important cases.

The main issue here is not whether we like immigrants or want to encourage immigration. It’s about whether or not the President has the right to overrule Congress in an executive order and whether or not Congress has the right to cede some of its Constitutionally mandated responsibilities to the President.

The President, the Court and Immigration

Source: Barry’s Illegal Immigration Scheme Is Illegal

Posted April 22, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Reforming the SCOTUS   Leave a comment

Since the death of Antonin Scalia (who I  increasingly suspect was murdered for the purposes of protecting Obama’s unconstitutional legacy), this post becomes more important. I wrote it a couple of years ago and there are things I would change now.

  • Increase the number of justices on the court to somewhere between 15-25. That dilutes the political leanings of anyone justice to a margin of error.
  • No president may nominate more than one justice per term, so if one dies and the president has already had his one nomination that term, the nomination should come from the Senate or the state legislatures
  • When justices die in office, their replacement may only serve until the end of the deceased justice’s term. The president may either name the replacement or the one nomination allowed that term, but not both.

aurorawatcherak

Mark Levin’s Liberty Amendments suggested a constitutional amendment to introduce term limits for US Supreme Court justices. Is that a good idea?

Northwestern University School of Law professor James Lingren debated Columbia Law School professor Thomas W. Merrill on this subject on March 11.

Lindgren advocated for a proposed constitutional amendment limiting justices to 18-year-terms with each term expiring in odd years, giving presidents two nominees for each 4-year executive term. He argued that term limits would help return the Supreme Court to its historic norm of shorter terms and bring it in line with other judicial entities in the United States.

“Except for the state of Rhode Island, no other western jurisdiction has life tenure for high court justices,” Lindgren said. “Term limits would help usher out judges with mental decrepitude and loss of stamina, eliminate strategic retirement for political reasons, reduce animosity in confirmation, and return to traditional…

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Posted April 19, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Another Good Day for Liberty at the SCOTUS   Leave a comment

Supreme Court Birth Control (2)http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-supreme-court-contraceptives-20140613-story.html

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/06/30/supreme-court-hobby-lobby/

For the record, I’m a woman. I’ve been married nearly 30 years, I have two children spaced six years apart and my husband and I have sex regularly.

At no time in our 30 years together has our medical insurance covered contraception. For most of those years, our combined incomes have made us middle-middle class and during some of those years, we’ve been solidly lower-middle-class.

Yet, we somehow only have two children. The first one was born seven years after our marriage. The second one was born six years later. Both were planned. Yes, we use contraception to prevent pregnancy and yes, we pay for it ourselves. For the record, the contraception methods we’ve used do not permit conception and then chemically or mechanically abort a zygot (the beginnings of a human baby). We take responsibility for our own sexuality and for the children we produce through sharing that awesome experience with one another.

The world will not end of Hobby Lobby’s Christian owners are not required to pay for the abortificients of their sexually-careless employees. It won’t end if couples have to go on buying their own contraception. The birth rate won’t increase. Women will not be forced into domestic servitude. People will still be free to use contraception for the prevention of pregnancy.

All that’s happened is that the Supreme Court has recognized the right of people of faith to not participate in the murder of children. Now, if we can stop forcing me to pay for abortions through my federal income taxes ….

A Good Day for Liberty in Courts   Leave a comment

They get it right sometime

Supreme Court rules against Obama on recess appointments

Of course, it’s six years past and he’ll get to keep his unapproved appointments, so it really wasn’t a victory until the next president has to operate on the separation of powers.

 

New York Court Blocks Proposed Large Sugary Drink Ban

Nanny state takes a hit — probably not big enough to knock it out, but it looks good from here. If you don’t want to drink large sugary drinks, you don’t have to, but for those who do … ah, liberty!

 

High court strikes Massachusetts abortion “buffer zone”

The Supreme Court eliminates 35-foot rule, victory for anti-abortion activists. | M. Scott Mahaskey/POLITICOFree speech means speech that is free. And shouting from across the street is less effective than a quiet voice near to the door. Seems kind of strange that we have to have the Supreme Court explain what free speech is. Liberty, you know? The right to speak what’s on your mind even if others disagree so long as your speech does not result or advocate for the physical injury of someone.

Not a hard concept!

 

-Prosecutor Nullification vs. Jury Nullification   Leave a comment

The next time someone speaks up against jury nullification, ask their position on the FAR MORE COMMON prosecutor nullification.

via -Prosecutor Nullification vs. Jury Nullification.

The prosecutor is employed by the state. In Alaska, the judge is an appointed official subject to decadal voter retention — employed by the state. In many cases, the attorney is a public defender — employed by the state. In a trial, the only people who are not taking a paycheck from the same outfit that is prosecuted the defendant is the jury.

But the fact that most cases go to sentencing without ever being heard by a jury should concern us even more than that. An entire system conspires against the accused. We may think the public wants these laws that make certain activities criminal because our elected representatives enact the legislation, but that is not necessarily the case. If they knew that some of these laws would put their kids in jail for simple things like — for example — deciding to sleep in their car rather than drive home drunk — would they be that in favor of the law? But there’s no way to say it’s a bad law. Once it’s been enacted, good luck changing it, even if you know about it — until you get to the jury room and then you hold the power to nullify the law … assuming the case ever got to you.

Modern Idolatry   55 comments

There are many idols in this world. We don’t tend to think of idol-worship in our modern society. We are so sophisticated that we don’t make graven images to bow before. That doesn’t mean we don’t have idols. Any time a Christian puts anything higher than God, it becomes an idol. Even our government can become an idol if we put obeying it above our obligation to obey God.

Here in the United States, many Christians insist that we must support our government and obey it, even as it does things that are cruel, greedy, murderous and godless. If you point out where the US government has gone astray, they will cite Romans 13 and a handful of other passages to assert that Christians must never, ever disobey the government because that is tantamount to disobeying God.

So they plunk down their tax money and they send their sons and daughters off to war, to pay for and participate in assassinations, unjust wars, taxpayer-funded abortion, drone strikes, and attacks on American citizens (such as Ruby Ridge). They don’t complain and often they cheer.

When President Obama authorized a drone strike murder on American citizen Anwar al-Alwaki I objected on two grounds — one that he was an American citizen and therefore supposed to be protected by the Constitution and two that our government should not be using drones to kill anyone. If we are a nation founded on the rule of law, then simply sneaking up on someone we suspect of terrorism is not good enough. Innocent until proven guilty, right to a fair trial, right to face your accusers … and all that. Yet, many of my fellow Christians informed me that I didn’t have a right to judge the government as abusive and out of control because of … Romans 13.

It goes further than that, however. God gave us the right of liberty (1 Peter 4:15), which our Constitution acknowledges, but the American government tells us what we must do, own, buy, sell, and consume. Our Constitution sets forth protections for criminal and civil procedings in a way reminiscent of the cities of refuge and the trial in the gate system of Israel, yet our government recently has given itself the power to arrest and incarcerate without evidence or trial. God gave us the right of property (Exodus 20:15), which is recognized in the Founding documents, but the American government imposes coercive taxes, confiscates possessions, and tells us what we can and cannot own. God gave us the right of privacy (1 Peter 4:15), acknowledged by the 4th amendment, but the American government gave itself license to spy on us through our computers, telephones, and records and by means of cameras, drones and even our neighbors.

If God granted these rights and safeguards them through His divine law, then it reasonably follows that man has no authority to take them away. That used to be understood in the United States and was enshrined in our constitution, but in recent times we have given ourselves the right (through the government) to define and even take away the rights of other men, thus attempting to dethrone God and replace Him with the government.

Does that seem like an overblown statement?

In a society that is supposedly founded on self-government, when the government steals, coerces or murders, it does it in your name. Christians are called in the Bible to refrain from such activities, but when our government engages in them, it does so on our behalf … though increasingly against us.

To obey a government without question because you believe God has required you to obey it even as it violates His commands is as much idolatry as Caesar declaring himself God!

‘Fixing’ the Bill of Rights – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Letters To Editor   Leave a comment

‘Fixing’ the Bill of Rights – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Letters To Editor.

Trimming SCOTUS Authority   Leave a comment

How in the world did we end up with a Supreme Court that can rule tyranny is constitutional?

Examples?

  • Dred Scot
  • Plessy v. Ferguson
  • Affordable Care Act

Interestingly, the first two were later deemed unconstitutional by later courts, but we could have all have come to that conclusion easily enough without the SCOTUS telling us that. Clearly, keeping other human beings in slavery or in virtual slavery is unconstitutional.

So, since I’m throwing mud against a wall to see what sticks …

How about an Article V convention that proposes an amendment that requires that the Supreme Court base its decisions on the actual reading of the Constitution and their decisions can be overridden by state legislatures also operating on the actual reading of the Constitution?

What would be the outcome, do you think?

Amend Article V   Leave a comment

Yes, at the end of a series on amending the Constitution through a convention of the states to propose amendments, I am going to address changing the methods by which we amend the Constitution.

We have two methods. The only method that has ever been used is for two-thirds of each house of Congress to propose an amendment, which is then sent to the states for ratification.

The second method is for two-thirds of the states legislatures to call for a convention for the purpose of proposing an amendment (or amendments), which would again have to be ratified by the states. State legislatures have been taught to unnecessarily fear a “runaway convention” in which somehow same-sex marriage or repeal of the 2nd amendment becomes ratified.

The failure of the convention method to operate seemed like an unimportant matter when I first learned of it in college, but functionally it has given Congress a monopoly on all amendments. No amendment that Congress opposes, including necessary reforms of Congressional power, can be enacted if the states give all the power to reform Congressional power to Congress.

There have been a whole host of popular constitutional amendments that have gone nowhere in recent decades because of this monopoly on the power to amend the Constitution. Examples abound — balanced budget amendment, a line-item veto amendment, term limits, etc. — these might have been enacted if there had been a functioning alternative to the Congressional proposal method. That fact that one exists and we’ve thus far refused to use it doesn’t speak highly for the states as the guardians of liberty.

Cleaning up the wording in Article V so as to make it clear that this is not a constitutional convention but a convention for states to propose amendments would probably lay (some) those fears aside.

Of course, the successful exercise of an Article V convention would also do that. We fear what we have not done before.

Let’s do it!

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